With apologies to President Obama, it doesn’t get bigger than this: On Sunday, Queen Elizabeth II will make a historic first public statement supporting LGBT rights and gender equity.
The Queen, who is famously apolitical, will address the issues tomorrow when she signs a new Commonwealth Charter aimed at ending discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation.
It’s part of a wider campaign by the British government to addresses civil-rights abuses in former British colonies. (Prime Minister David Cameron has threatened to suspend aid to countries with laws against gay people, as he already has against Malawi, where homosexual acts can land you in jail for up to 14 years.)
The Daily Mail says royal experts call the move a “watershed moment”—the first time she’s in a reign that’s lasted 61 years and counting.
The charter, dubbed a “21st Century Commonwealth Magna Carta” declares: “We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.”
The ‘other grounds’ is intended to refer to sexuality – but specific reference to ‘gays and lesbians’ was omitted in deference to Commonwealth countries with draconian anti-gay laws.
Deferring to draconian anti-gay laws? Isn’t that the whole reason this pledge needs to be made in the first place? We hope Liz can at least get into specifics when gives her accompanying speech, which will be televised.
“The impact of this statement on
gay and women’s rights should not be underestimated,” one insider tells the Mail. “Nothing this progressive has ever been approved by the United Nations. And it is most unusual for the Queen to request to sign documents in public, never mind call the cameras in.”
Experts say the Queen’s support for the charter signals her approval to changes in the rules of accession that will allow a first-born daughter from William and Kate to take the throne. (Wonder if she’d be okay with it if the royal tyke was a lesbian?)
“This is the first time that the Queen has publicly acknowledged the importance of the 6% of her subjects who are gay,” said Ben Summerskill of the British LGBT group Stonewall. “Some of the worst persecution of gay people in the world takes place in Commonwealth countries as a result of the British Empire.”
It’s not a pretty legacy: Same-sex acts are still illegal in 41 of the 54 Commonwealth nations, with penalities ranging from fines and jail time to life imprisonment and capital punishment.